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Russian Famine (Relief)

Volume 149: debated on Friday 16 December 1921

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asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government is aware that the number of starving people in the Russian famine area is far beyond the reach of private charity and whether the Government has decided to recommend the granting of credits to the Russian Government for the purpose of food without which millions of people must starve during this winter?

The Government are fully alive to the serious nature of the famine in Russia. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative; the hon. Member is no doubt aware that Parliament has voted a sum of £100,000, representing the present value of Government stores, chiefly medical, to be placed at the disposal of the Red Cross Society for the relief of famine in Russia. The original value of these stores was 250,000; their present day value is £100,000.

Will not the Government, in addition to this relatively small sum, join with the other Great Powers in making the necessary credits to save the lives of these millions of people?

Will the Government consider extending the same scale of relief to the distressed Cornish miners, who are now starving, as the hon. Member wishes them to give to the Russians?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give part of that £250,000 to the unfortunate refugees from Russia who are now in workhouses in this country?

The sum which has been voted by the House was voted to send stores, mainly medical stores, which were to he at the disposal of the Red Cross for use in Russia. I am not aware of any proposal as suggested that with other Powers we should collectively vote money from national funds, but it is quite obvious that in dealing with any matters of this kind we must have regard at the present moment to the condition of our own people.

Is it a fact that no fewer than 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 persons will die of starvation in Russia this winter, and is it not also the fact that it was due to the refusal of the British Government to entertain any proposal for an advance of credit that the League of Nations was unable to take action at Geneva?

Both questions obviously ought to be the subject of notice. As regards the first I am unable to say what is the possible extent of the calamity which from various causes has befallen the Russians. As regards the second question, I will ask to be excused from answering as to what passed at the League of Nations without an opportunity of refreshing my memory.